North Texas Daily

Political extremism is dividing America

Political extremism is dividing America

Political extremism is dividing America
October 05
15:00 2020

Disenchantment and frustration are running rampant throughout America at the hands of a pandemic, social unrest, natural disasters and a scandal-ridden election year. Seemingly, the answer to this country’s problems lies within clinging tighter to one’s political beliefs. But it has not worked so far and, in reality, it only perpetuates the growing division in America.

American grade school curriculum ensures the preamble is cemented into each student’s memory, so everyone knows it as the American government’s mission statement. The government has not always succeeded in “establish[ing] justice” for all and maintaining “domestic tranquility,” and that is why people take interest in politics. It is why people vote, invest time organizing rallies and support certain organizations: because people believe spreading a specific message will get the country one step closer to being a “more perfect union.”

Nevertheless, many people express their political beliefs with too much fervor and have ended up too far left (liberal) or too far right (conservative). Although the use of left and right to describe a person’s political affiliation did not gain traction in America until the 20th century, it has origins in the French Revolution. The conundrum lies in allowing terms from such a tumultuous time in history to dictate modern politics.

Developing one’s own political identity typically occurs through a natural process. Socioeconomic background, gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity and familial relationships tend to aid a person in determining where they will lie on the political spectrum or if they will be apolitical. A person learns what matters most to them as they navigate life, and their experiences define how they interact with the government.

Since the factors shaping political identity tie into a person’s quality of life, most people adopt a political ideology because they believe it is what will provide them and their loved ones with the best life possible. Most people are doing the best with their level of knowledge, and do not genuinely wish harm on others. Issues in America affect each individual in their complex manner, so it is irrational to believe one side can provide a remedy for all.

When someone is too invested in their political affiliations, they develop a sort of tunnel vision. Unable to empathize with their opponent, it is nearly impossible for them to be objective or consider someone else’s needs. They are focused on what the other side is doing wrong instead of offering productive feedback or what they could be doing to fix their own societal shortcomings.

Lack of open-mindedness is detrimental to relations within America. Defined as the “willingness to actively search for evidence against one’s favored beliefs, plans or goals,” being open-minded is critical when it comes to making progress as a country. Instead, political discussions are weaponized and used as a defense mechanism, refusing to be seen as an opportunity to level with someone who views life differently. 

This is not to say a person should not be passionate about politics or should abandon their views. However, it is the inability to create an even playing field within politics that makes conservatives unwilling to deviate from tradition. It shapes progressives who expect the right-wing to instantaneously unlearn centuries of heritage, resulting in an America with an “every man for himself” complex, incapable of compromise. 

Being too far on one side of the political spectrum can also result in the formation of a toxic following, as seen with President Trump. While many of the people who voted for Trump did so and moved on with their lives, the portion of his fan base who are too invested is responsible for the infamous “Make America Great Again” hats being viewed as a hate symbol

There needs to be a middle ground where both sides can meet. The more people become extremely committed to their party, the less progress America will make. It is the same concept we are taught as children, in team settings or when working with someone we do not necessarily agree with: compromise is necessary for success.

Politicians are just people, and they all have skeletons in their closets. None of them should be glorified. Political parties are too distinct and should not be made out to seem as though one has all the answers. America is an incredibly diverse country with people who have individualized struggles and needs. An extreme, inflexible political system does not reflect that.

Featured Illustration by Austin Banzon

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Rhema Joy Bell

Rhema Joy Bell

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